The question most people ask me on YouTube and in person is "What should I eat to be skinny?" It is the main thing on America's mind, or at least the media seems to want it to be. Between images of Americas Biggest Loser glaring at us from our TV's, constant updates about eating disorders, weight gains and losses of all our favorite celebrities, and the surge of "diets" including Dr. Atkins' coronary artery disease, heart attack and death, we're suffocated so much that it makes us want to gorge on Doritos and Ben and Jerry's while we stare at the boob toob in horror at famous people's cellulite!
That is one of the reasons why I unplugged my cable TV for a year to detox. There is no escape from our obsession with weight though. I had zero to contribute to any conversation about reality TV and I had no idea who Brittany was dating for an entire year, but I could tell you all about her weight gain because pasted on every newsstand were those images of her clutching a liter of Mountain Dew and a bag of McDonalds with the grease stain leaking through. I also kept up on Angelina's troubling weight loss because of "exhaustion" and I saw most of the traumatic pictures of Nicole Richie's lollipop head barely balancing atop her tiny skeletal frame.
Recently I leaped back into the game and reunited with the cable company. It was only to watch the Olympics of course, but I couldn't escape the commercials for heart attack pills, new exercise systems, McDonald's new salad choices, and low-calorie hot pockets.
So my thing is yoga. I've been practicing since I was a teenager with a bunch of master teachers, and teaching for a few years myself now because I feel there is a big gap between the people that already practice yoga, and everyone else. I grew up in the Midwest where a lot of people think yoga is an exclusive club for the spiritually elite (or just plain weird). I think Yoga should be for everyone, not just the folks who change their name to something Hindu.
They won't tell you this on TV or in the magazines, because it's not selling much besides a healthy lifestyle (no special meals delivered to your door, no fancy exercise machines). It's the hidden secret to the last diet and health plan you'll ever need. It doesn't come in a bottle and you don't even have to go on a payment plan.
When you practice yoga regularly you get more then you will from jogging on the treadmill catching up on the last season of Lost. When you practice yoga you use your body and your mind, and you're gaining awareness and intuition. Not by thinking really hard "I'm gaining awareness and intuition," but because it just works that way. And when you have more in that department, you make better choices. You'll notice things slightly shifting, from the awareness that you have when you wake up in the morning, to how you walk around and get your work done during the day, to the choices you make for dinner. There's nothing mystical about the new insights you're gaining; it just happens. You'll start to feel happier and healthier, more grounded, stronger, flexible, in your body and in how you feel psychologically. Little moments of clarity start coming more frequently. Sounds are richer, food even tastes better.
Your body is smart. It doesn't want to be filled with crap all the time. It will let you know what it needs and you won't have to follow diets. You'll start to see where you may have been psychologically hungry or craving or tired, when your body may have been just fine and ready to do its job for you. Your awareness and intuition have been with you all along, they just may have needed some dusting off. As long as you are listening to your body's needs, and being clear about your psychological needs, you should be able to figure it out with a little practice.
In the meantime here is my short list.
High-fructose corn syrup: Bad. Don't eat it. Read labels carefully, it's in a lot of products. High-fructose corn syrup is the last thing to leave your body so go ahead and add it as fat. If you are hiking for miles and your body is totally out of fuel it just may start to eat away on its storage of high-fructose corn syrup if you're lucky. Best bet is to stay away. Find products that use natural unprocessed (or at least less processed) sweeteners like cane juice or raw organic sugar.
Greens: Good. Green things are good for your body. Find organic greens and you're all set for your salad. Squeeze a little lemon, add a few walnuts and an avocado and you've got a great meal.
Long ingredient lists: Bad. Read labels in your favorite products. Look for short lists of simple, less-processed ingredients with names you recognize as food. If you find some of the same ingredients in your cereal as your shampoo maybe it's time to switch to something simpler.
Water: Good. It's hard to believe that qater is still underrated. It arrives out of our taps (get a filter if you want), and is free for now . . . although I am anxiously anticipating Irena Salina's new award winning documentary Flow to see how that may change. Drink water. Drink it often. Carry it with you. Drink it all day. Have it by your bed to take care of midnight thirst.